Lots of us dream about quitting our jobs and starting a food business. These people actually did it—with the loves of their lives as business partners.
Kendra Coggin and Baron Conway met while working at a marketing agency in Los Angeles: She took issue with a typeface he was using, and next thing you know, the two were dating and bonding over, of all things, pickles. "Pickling was a big part of both our lives growing up, says Baron. He grew up in England and favors mustard and malt-vinegar flavors; Kendra, a Mississippi native, prefers the sweet and hot versions from the South. They spent a lot of free time perfecting their brines, and after brunch guests frequently praised their pickles, they took a big leap and started the Pernicious Pickling Co. in 2013. "It was 50 percent planning, 50 percent pure gambling," Baron jokes of their decision to sink their savings into a new business after just one year of dating.
At the time, virtually no one was producing pickles in Southern California. The couple soon realized why: Getting a license to sell canned goods is extremely difficult. Undaunted, they took a certification class and rented space in a commercial kitchen. When they couldn't get a bank loan, they dipped into savings ($25,000, so far). Eventually, after renting booths at food shows, they started getting orders from gourmet shops—just the nudge Kendra needed to quit her job in 2014. (Baron still freelances to boost cash flow.) "It's the difference between being a business and a hobby," Baron says of Kendra's decision to leave her job. Today, their pickles are in nearly 100 stores, including Whole Foods, and they produce 10 varieities with bold flavor profiles, like pickled curry cauliflower and habanero dills. They expect to be cash-positive by the end of this year, but they're quick to admit it wasn't easy. "There are no shortcuts," he says. "It's hard work at every level."
Article by Erica Cohen
Photo by Anne Watson Photography